It's Reno Taco Fest 2017. Normally, I’m all about an event like this. I love tacos out of food trucks, out of restaurants, and out of little carts. I do not like $3 tacos served in the parking lot of a beat-up casino. A $3 taco is like a married bachelor. It’s not supposed to exist. The $1.50 +/- $0.25 is the ideal price range.
Okay, maybe you’re not completely ignorant of what to do when presented with a taco. Perhaps you enjoy eating tacos, but think anyone that applies a methodology is deranged. I might be deranged for eating my favorite food in the most ritualistic way possible.
Let’s first discuss the composite parts of my favorite taco – The Al Pastor Street Taco. “Street Taco” btw is a reference to the size of the taco and not where it’s cooked. The "al pastor" refers to spicy pork. Here’s what it needs.
Small corn tortillas, 4x4in or 5x5in
Tenderized pork in a chili-dominant marinade
Small meat pieces – each chunk about the half the size of a pinto bean (avoid giant meat cubes at all costs!)
Meat partially charred on the grill – the goal should be some very tender pieces and some crispy charred pieces
White or yellow onion in a smallish chop
The whole taco should be presented to you in a taco sleeping bag of sorts
Next, you need the taco accouterments.
Salsa – should be red or green and almost exclusively liquid; pico de gallo is not what you want on a taco
Lime slices – I cannot overstress the importance of lime slices; the citric component of tacos is absolutely critical
Radish wedges – these not only provide a healthy accompaniment to an otherwise unhealthy food, but they also offer a desirable CRUNCH
Grilled serrano or jalapeño peppers; these are the most optional part to the whole shabang – sometimes I want to add some kick to the heat of my meal and these do just the trick
Finally, we come to the taco methodology! I’ll grant you that you can definitely eat tacos any ol’ which way.
You can eat them with a..
Photo: jans canon
Or you can eat them in a..
Photo: marcia furman
But ultimately, you can dial up your taco eating experience by following these steps.
1. Secure your salsa, lime slice, radish wedge, and hot taco snug inside its wrap. If your taco got cold between purchase and this moment, microwave the taco in its wrap for 25 seconds. If you don’t have a microwave available, heat the taco with pyro-kinesis.
2. Next, you want to partially unwrap the taco so that one triangular edge of the wrap meets up with its opposite edge. Think square, rotated to a diamond, then then folded in on itself with a taco inside.
3. At this point, it may feel as though we are doing origami and not eating delicious tacos. Stay strong. Tear the top point down the middle.
4. Now take the front side and tear down and around the taco itself.
5. Here is what that tearing should look like from the perpendicular angle.
6. You should nearly have the top half of the paper removed from the taco. Pluck that top half of the paper clean off and discard.
7. Here we see the top half of the paper removed and the bottom half folded around itself. You gotcho self a taco ice cream cone!
8. Take that bottom “cone” and fold it upward. Now your taco should be sitting in a pouch. Why are we doing all this fucking folding? Relax. It will soon become clear, Grasshopper.
9. Now we apply the salsa and the lime. Do not skimp on either. You want the contents of the taco to be all lubed up with spice and citrus.
10. Now take a bite of that motha fucka! Follow that bite with a nibble of the radish wedge. Apply more salsa and more lime with every subsequent bite. Note the position of the taco. Once eating has commenced, keep the taco perpendicular to the plate. This will maximize the love that stays inside the tortilla, and it will also mitigate drippage.
11. It’s pouch celebration time! You ate that glorious taco applying fresh salsa and lime with every bite. That pouch that took years to fold now has its time in the sun. Little bits of onion, cilantro, and meat now live in the bottom of that pouch. The salsa and lime juice that seeped through the perpendicular taco also now cohabitate with the onion, cilantro, and meat. Press this flavor pocket to your mouth and shuck out all that tastiness.
12. Between tacos, clean that plate! It’s a rookie mistake to keep all your tacos out on your plate as you eat. Rather than plating all of them at the same time, keep taco #2 and #3 and #4 and #5 and #6 in the foil domicile pictured in the bottom right of this photo. The uneaten tacos stay warm incubating in the foil with their brethren.
13. Another pro move is to keep the plastic bag handy that the tacos arrived in. After you eat each taco, discard the spent lime, the taco wrap, and any spent ramekins. Controlled chaos is the goal here. *Bonus tip* If you find yourself eating outside as I did, tie the bag around the leg of your chair or table.
14. Once you’ve eaten all your tacos, you’re likely to have a plate that looks something like this. Despite the perpendicular-taco method, you still lost a good few nibblets to the plate. Resist the temptation to grab a fork! You possess all the tools you need.
15. Take that bear paw of yours and gather the nibblets into a cute little pile on your plate.
16. Take that same paw and go in for those nibblets like you’re “The Claw.”
17. Take a moment to thank whatever god you worship for this holy experience. (Skip step 18 if chewed food grosses you out. C’mon, though. It’s just food.)
18. Then down the hatch! I could be dining with Queen Liz II, Bowie’s ghost, and Tom Cruise, and I’d still drop the nibblets into my mouth like a goddamn heathen. I can’t explain why, but there is something undeniably satisfying about scooping up food and dropping it into your mouth. Maybe this method of ingestion is hardwired into our DNA (Egyptians, Greeks, sitcom dream sequences).
19. Don’t allow that plate-scoop into your mouth without a little salsa to chase it. Cheers to a taco well-eaten!
20. Oo spicy.